03 August 2012

"Fallen Angel"

By Curtis C. Chen

"Come on," Linda said in her best come-hither voice. "This ship was meant to fly. She wants to fly."

Joel lowered his scanner and gave her a dubious look. "Look, I appreciate the husky voice and all, but making me sexually aroused is not going to get the engine fixed any faster."

Linda stopped sticking out her chest and slumped sideways against the monitoring console. "I'm just trying to motivate you."

"Yeah, thanks, but the idea of not dying is already pretty compelling." Joel tapped at the scanner, then pried open another access panel. "Maybe you could, I don't know, make yourself useful?"

"I've already cleaned and rebuilt every power relay between the core and all the lifter assemblies. Twice," Linda said. "Unless you've got something for me to shoot, blow up, or otherwise kill, I've kind of exhausted my skill set."

"Just my luck to get marooned with a jarhead," Joel muttered.

"Hey, you're not exactly my idea of a good time, either, Hodge," Linda said. "And don't forget, it's your fault we're stranded here."

"Okay, this again?" Joel dropped his tools and turned to scowl at her. "You really want to waste oxygen arguing about this?"

"I'm not arguing," Linda said. "I'm telling you."

"Hey, you were the one who navigated us into—"

"Shut up and listen," Linda snapped. "I have seniority, so HR's more likely to trust my post-mortem assessment anyway. But more to the point, I'm older than you are, and this is my only career path."

Joel's scowl softened to confusion. "I don't follow."

"You're what, twenty-six years old?"


Linda shook her head. "Jesus, you're a baby. Anyway. The point is, even if you get reprimanded for this, you're going to bounce back. You can still go into any of a dozen different R&D divisions, or tech-dev, or manufacturing."

"Let me get this straight." Joel folded his arms. "You want me to lie for you? In an official company document?"

Linda chose her words carefully. "No, of course not. But you and I will be the only reporters. If we can't agree on the facts of the incident, HR's going to have to convene an inquiry board and run an official investigation, and who knows how long that's going to take."

Joel's mouth twitched, and Linda knew she was on the right track. Anything that distracted him from doing his job was bad.

"So," she continued, "all I'm saying is that if the only downside is you get a slap on the wrist, then making our trip reports match up is a win-win for both of us."

"I don't know," Joel said.

Linda leaned forward and put a hand on his knee. "I'd do my best to make it worth your while."

She slid her hand up his thigh. He made a face like he was sucking on a lemon.

"You know, you're really damaging my self-esteem here," she said.

"Sorry," Joel said. "You're just not my type."

Linda nodded and sat back. "Story of my fucking life."


Image: Untitled by Lóránt Dankaházi, January, 2008